The sporting goods industry has dramatically changed in the past two years. With the implementation of stringent rules around social distancing and the operation of commerce on the high-street (including multiple lockdowns), consumers have been flocking to a digital and ‘safer’ method of shopping.
And it isn’t just the physical closure of stores that has affected online sales due to the pandemic.
Changing lifestyle habits, the emphasis on staying healthy during long periods of home confinement, and the postponement or cancellation of many sporting events have all contributed to change.
Moreover, as the country continues to recover, people are now springing back into action with gusto after long lockdowns indoors.
A recent study has shown that global sports participation is set to drastically increase to approximately one billion people by 2025, resulting in a global sports market worth $1.1 trillion.
There’s no doubt that the online store has fundamentally changed the way in which consumers shop, and while the physical store will continue to play a role, the digital shift is here to stay. The question now is, how does your business ensure you’re ready to take advantage of this?
Competing in the Online World
There are many areas to consider when planning the success of your ecommerce store.
To begin with, there are the core issues of the website’s design and functionality. Sports brands need to think carefully about what their audiences will expect from them, and what they will expect to see.
For instance, there are aspects of the physical shopping experience that online retailers cannot easily replicate, and some that cannot be replicated at all.
Instead, retailers need to focus on what they can do, such as providing clear product descriptions and attractive photography, and a stylish, modern user experience throughout their website. Keep in mind that the whole online process lives and dies with your site’s responsiveness and functionality.
And let’s not forget about the way you use your store. This is where branding, messaging, and social media influencers come in.
Branding and the rise of social media influencers
Knowing your target audience is crucial when it comes to ecommerce. Not only do you need to know how to attract them to your online store, you also need to know how to ensure your online store appeals to them.
The way you build and use your band - including the messaging you use - needs to attract and connect with your audience. Your store should follow the same guidelines.
Think about the way you use imagery, the tone of voice you adopt, and the way you carry out your marketing. Everything from your site design through to the user experience should reflect your brand; if you are selling athleisure clothing, the overall design and feel of your site should speak to this.
Similarly, if you’re selling equipment for outdoor sports or activities, the site should embrace the imagery and approach of the adventurous.
Another big area to consider when it comes to selling your brand online is the role of social media influencers. A report by McKinsey & Company found that influencers, often professional athletes in particular, were playing a bigger role than ever before in helping sporting brands to reach their audiences.
These athletics are role models, which means they’re likely to have strong stances on important issues such as sustainability and diversity, so you need to make sure your branding and messaging reflect a positive message that will resonate with your audience.
Refine the online shopping experience
Perhaps the most important area to determine the success or failure of your ecommerce store is the user experience.
We’ve already touched on the importance of your site’s responsiveness and functionality.
Research carried out by Portent found that the ideal load time for a webpage was between 0 and 4 seconds - and the highest conversion rate occurs when a page loads in less than 2 seconds.
Moreover, a report by Unbounce suggests that nearly 70% of consumers will admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online store.
All this means that without the proper planning, you could put hours upon hours of work into developing your brand and messaging, only to fall at the last hurdle.
When it comes to site functionality, it’s no surprise that the checkout experience is a central focus. Consumers need reassurance that their payments will be secure and that delivery will be timely and efficient.
It’s essential that they have confidence in the whole checkout process.
Make sure this process is crystal clear if you want to minimise the chance of shopping cart abandonment. Abandonment rates in fashion retail, in particular, are high. If you give any reason for customers to question whether they're making the right choice, they may well bail out early.
Creating the right shopping experience for buying sports goods online requires a focus on marketing, but also the mechanics of your site. Start with a platform that will give you the freedom to create a unique store and the functionality to support it.
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